Brand Recognition Rules Search, Even Local Search

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Google's Been At It Again!

Actually, they are always at it, that is, evolving how local brands appear in local search results. However, have you noticed when you search for a search term that may have a relationship with a Brand name how that Brand starts to appear in search results? It was possible to see a single page of search results dominated almost by one company.


Google’s been playing with it’s algorithm again. Luckily some of it’s earlier attempts to recognize the brand strength of a company on the web have been reduced somewhat. However, it does point to where Google is driving. It wants to reward brands.

This should not come as a surprise. Google wants quality information, companies and people to show up in it’s results. Your brand strength, either as a business or as an individual, is a measure of trust and quality.

One of the largest areas for growth in developing brand strength is online in ‘social spheres’ and it’s where one could say ‘word of mouth’ marketing has moved to.

Embrace The New ‘Word of Mouth’ Paradigm

We hear all to often from businesses that their clients are mostly ‘word of mouth’ or personal referrals and so a website of Facebook isn’t a big deal to them. For a handful of businesses, this may be true, but for most this is fast becoming a very dangerous line of thinking.

Google

Word of mouth referrals are influenced by people. Where do you think people are developing a sense for businesses in your market? It’s realistic these days to assume that around 60% to 80% of people search for a local services on-line first. They may be prompted to search based on what they have ‘heard’ about your businesses, but simply wish to find out ‘who else’  is there too or to find out if others support the glowing recommendations they’ve heard about your business. What do you think their reaction will be if they don’t find you online, or spot a competitor who is and also has glowing recommendations?

How often have you been given a recommendation and have taken it unreservedly? How often have you then ‘checked around’ online and found other people not so happy with the company you’ve just been recommended? What do you do next?

 

Big Business

Start Acting Like A large Company

Don’t panic! We don’t mean rush out and hire a bunch of people you can’t afford, or spend on marketing and PR you can’t afford either.

What I mean is think of your business more like large companies think about their; as a BRAND. To them the brand is everything and quite rightly too as it can amount to instant recognition.

Why is this important to a smaller company? We live in an age where certain truths rule the world of marketing.

  • Marketing has moved on-line and the trend is increasing dramatically for smaller and smaller businesses.
  • People use search engines and social media venues to find what they are looking for locally.
  • Word of mouth includes recommendations made socially online, particularly in a local context.
  • Google dominates local search.

Whether we like it or not, Google is driving us in a particular direction. Unfortunately, or fortunately for smaller businesses, depending if your glass is half full or half empty on this issue, it appears Google favors ‘Brand Awareness.’ This increasingly means that if a certain search term has a strong relationship to a well known brand, that brand is likely to be given preference by Google and appear higher in the search results.

A classic example is a search using Google Instant. Just type the letter ‘A’ in to your Google page search bar and watch the automatic suggestions come up. Just look at all the big brand names.

More specific searches return similar scenarios. Type in ‘Sports Shoes’ and see how many local companies show up, or not. It’s mainly dominated by larger brands.

Can a smaller business hope to match this? No, at least not on that scale or unless your business dominates a very specific and narrow niche. Local businesses need to work smart where search engines like Google are concerned.

Change the search term and now include your town, e.g. “sports shoes in Watford.” Now you start seeing the local companies that dominate. Here you can succeed!

Where local search is concerned, Google favors local brands. That's great news for local businesses. Here, if your local brand has a good following as measured by links to your site, mentions in reviews and local directories and social media mentions, your business can outrank large brands.

Online Reputation

How To Achieve Local Brand Awareness

Every business has a brand, it’s what makes your business unique, it defines you; it’s why you are in business. Not enough local companies consider the ‘brand’ aspects of their business. So start by taking a few minutes to consider what makes what you do a local brand.

To help you do this, think about how and why people search out the kinds of products or services you offer. For instance when looking for local suppliers people implicitly look for ‘trust signals.’  This translates directly to reputation. How’s your local reputation? More importantly, how do you know and how can you check? If you focus here you start to see how you can influence that.

They may also look for economy or value for money or fast turn around services, or a host of other attributes that encourage people to ‘return’ to the same business time and time again. Think about how do you promote those aspects of your business.

Get people talking about you. Good old word of mouth. However, you want them to talk about you online so they start generating ‘social signals.’

Pay attention to your website. It needs to be optimized for a local experience. You don’t necessarily have to rebuild your site, just make sure that there’s a major landing page that is localized; talking about what you provide to local customers and why they’d benefit in working with you or buying from you.

Here’s a summary of what you need to focus on to build your online brand locally:

  • Have a clear and concise view of your brand attributes and how you articulate them to your customer base.

  • Find out where you can promote your brand locally. Local directories and review sites such as Yelp.co.uk.

  • Find out if your brand is already being discussed. Google your company or product name, search Twitter and Facebook. Find out if you have been mentioned on a review site.

  • Get a Google + Local account and make sure you have claimed your business’s Place page. Make sure it’s up to date.

  • Start creating and posting useful information about your products and services. Start by writing helpful hints, tips  and how-to’s for people searching for the kinds of products and services you offer.

  • Localize your site or a landing page on your site and make sure you use this where you can as the target for local directories and listings.

  • Focus some effort in getting your site listed in Google’s ‘7 pack’ of local services. Don’t know how? Talk to us.

  • Seek out other community sites where you can contribute and stimulate discussion about what you do.

  • Behave like a big company and protect your brand by actively monitoring your online reputation and engaging people positively, even if they are negative towards you.
  • Embrace the idea of ‘authorship,’ is going to get big. Sites that are related to authoritative writers or social commentators are likely to benefit considerable where search rankings are concerned.

Feel free to pick up the phone or email us to discuss what we can do to help you. There's always something new to consider where your digital marketing and SEO is concerned.

 

Written by Robin Brown

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